“Peace is not the absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.” Ronald Reagan.
Whether we are talking about conflict between countries, between two people who love one another or even between people who are trying to work together or tolerate one another, it is important to understand two things about dealing with anyone who is different from us: conflict is inevitable, and conflict will either hurt a relationship or strengthen it. It is odd to think that conflict could actually work on our behalf to strengthen a connection and improve a relationship, but that is exactly what can happen when we are committed to moving towards another person who is different from us. If we understand that there are really only two goals in a relationship, to connect or disconnect from one another, we will start to look at conflict differently. While it is easier to relish in a connection while things are going smoothly, we need to develop a set of communication skills that allow us to continue pursuing the goal of connection when we are at odds, or when some sort of offense has entered the relationship.
Here are eleven communication principles from Danny Silk’s book, “Keep Your Love On”, that are an essential part of maintaining a healthy connection when faced with conflict in a relationship.
- Our first goal in a conversation is to understand one another.
- My thoughts, feelings and needs are valuable and important, and so are yours.
- I do not participate in disrespectful conversations. When my thoughts, feelings and needs are devalued in a conversation, I will stop the conversation and set a clear boundary. Until respect is restored, I will not participate.
- We need to communicate our true feelings and needs to establish trust and intimacy.
- It’s my job to tell you what is going on inside of me, and your job to tell me what is going on inside of you. We do not have the powers of telepathy or the right to assume we know one another’s motives, thoughts, feelings, or needs.
- The best way to communicate my feelings and needs is to use “I” messages, and clear, specific statements that show what I am feeling and experiencing.
- I will not expect you to know my feelings and needs unless I have communicated them to you.
- I will not make judgement statements or tell you how you must change in order to meet my needs.
- When you communicate your needs to me, it is my job to listen well so that I can understand what you need, how my life is affecting you, and what I can do to meet your needs.
- I am committed to protecting and nurturing our connection. I will do what I need to do in order to keep moving towards you.
- It’s my job to manage my heart so that I can respond to you in love and cast out fear in our relationship.
I’d like to point out a few of my favorites.
“Our first goal in a conversation (even in conflict) is to understand one another.” Usually our first goal is to make the other person see our point, or come into agreement with us. We set ourselves up for success if we change our goal from agreeing with one another to seeking to understand where the other person is coming from. This takes great patience, but is one hundred percent worth the effort.
“My thoughts, feelings and needs are valuable and important, and so are yours.” This is the difference between passive communication (where the other person matters more then you, and aggressive communication (where you matter more then the other person). Assertive communication requires an agreement that there are two people who are important and worthy of respect in the conversation. There is a priority on protecting the connection between you.
“It’s my job to tell you what is going on inside of me, and your job to tell me what’s going on inside of you.” When we are able to communicate with another person about our experience within the relationship, using “I” messages, to communicate our feelings and needs, the other person is in a much better position to understand how they are affecting us, as well as contributing positively or negatively to the relationship.
I want to leave you with one powerful question that can make all the difference when there is conflict within a relationship. Ready for it? Here it is…What do you need? Those four words are a powerful tool for dealing with conflict. When you can ask someone what it is they need from you or within the relationship, it is much easier to get to the root of the issue and restore the connection between you.